You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 25 continues a long string of laws that have been put in place for this new people after they had escaped from captive in Egypt. In particular, Deuteronomy 25 looks into laws dealing with criminals [Deu 25:1-3], a law on animals/tools of labor [Deu 25:4], laws on family [Deu 25:5-12], and laws on justice [Deu 25:13-19]. Zoning in onto the laws on justice, there were two laws stated in this chapter – one on general justice [Deu 25:13-16]; and the other a promise of justice against the Amalekites [Deu 25:17-19]. Focusing on the law on general justice, we shall examine some common tools of the trade – weights and measures as we look into how important it is for us to lead our lives with integrity so that we can enjoy our lives to the fullest in God.
accurate and honest weights – Back in those times they use scales and weights to weigh a lot of things – Leviticus tells us about ephahs and hins [Lev 19:36], ephahs a measure of all things dry [Exo 16:36], like corn; hin a measure of all things liquid, like oil or wine [Exo 30:24]. When you do business with somebody else, and you’re selling corn, it is easy for you to cheat a few grams off every buyer for per 100g that you sell. Your hands move so fast to weigh it and sweep them into a bag that your buyers will never find out. Or your weighs and your scales could be weighted, and your buyers would never know – they won’t usually have any means to measure it at home, and even if they do, they usually won’t bother measuring what they bought.
accurate and honest measures – And there are some things that are sold not by weight but by length, like cloth. Recently I had to buy some cloth for an exhibition, and I was trying very hard to keep my eyes on the ruler, but the seller measured it so fast that I wouldn’t be able to tell if he did give me exactly 5 yards, or if I only got a length closer to four-and-a-half yards at the end of it. I’m sure they sold cloth back in the old days, but even till today these inaccurate measures and dishonest weights still exist.
What does the Bible say about them? The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him [Proverbs 11:1]. This is a matter of integrity, and often it’s so easy to gain a little here and there that we tend to do it naturally and think of it as harmless. It isn’t harmless though. It harms your integrity. The Lord frowns on it. It incurs the Lord’s wrath – For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly [Deu 25:16]. Let us learn to be honest and have integrity in small things and big things alike.
Bias and deviation – we often hold some kind of prejudice against certain people, and some kind of bias for others. It is easy to be quick to judge somebody just by his race, his size, his face – it is easy for us to have double standards – we often have two different measures in our house [Deu 25:14]. But no – honest weights and accurate measures – let us measure a man for his own worth, and let us weigh a character not with a prefixed weight. Let us not judge, for who are we to judge? Let us accept those of low positions. A man who has integrity has no space in his heart for bias and deviation.
so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you – This is a promise. A promise from God, a promise to be fulfilled by God. Who says we cannot enjoy our lives in the grace of the Lord? In the context of this verse this promise is a huge one – to live long in the promised land – land of milk and honey, a great and fruitful land. Back in those days, people had longer lifespans that we do today, and the promise of a lengthy lifespan is a great one to enjoy. Compare the blessing of longevity for honest people to the curse for the dishonest people – the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days
[Psalm 55:23]. When we talk about blessings of longevity, one other instance comes into mind – Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you [Exo 20:12,Deu 5:16|Article]. This is a great blessing that comes after we’ve fulfilled important duties of what God expects of us.
I had to step aside from myself as I studied this verse, for, who am I kidding? I am certainly by far not the most upright person, especially when it comes to little things. I often find my integrity lacking when it comes to little, little things. It is hard to always be gracious and magnanimous all the time – traits which are often demanded by integrity – especially so when you’re short on money or you’re in a hurry. It’s hard to be rooted to the ground, it’s hard not to jump at a fantastic opportunity, albeit a dubious one. It’s hard to call a wrong as a wrong and a right as a right, especially when you might have much to lose.
We must, though. We must. The Bible didn’t say, ‘you should’ or ‘you ought to’. We must – because if we do not, we will incur God’s wrath knowingly. Sometimes what constitutes as right is a blurry picture. Let us steer clear of the grey areas that we so often pounce at, and instead, build our characters based on integrity. If it is right, let us call it as right. If it is wrong, let us call it as wrong and seek to better ourselves next time. It’s hard, but certainly possible.
With God’s grace, let us have honest and accurate weights and measures.